Eggplant Pasta (Pasta alla Norma) is a mouthwatering vegetarian pasta rich in quintessential Italian flavors. It features al dente pasta dressed in a hearty tomato sauce with pan-fried eggplant and fresh herbs. Make this filling pasta in under 30 minutes for weeknights and entertaining!
Pasta alla Norma is staple in our weeknight meal rotation. It is tasty, healthy, and only takes a few minutes of prep. Enjoy it with our 10 -Minute Sautéed Broccolini (Broccoletti) or Burrata Caprese with Balsamic Glaze for an extra filling meal.
This authentic Italian pasta dish is not only delicious, but it's also an affordable option when feeding a family or entertaining. It's always a crowd pleaser, so we recommend making enough for everyone to have seconds!
About Eggplant Pasta
- Taste - The sweet eggplant, or melanzane in Italian, and rich tomato sauce combine for a light yet tasty pasta.
- Texture - The eggplant is tender, the pasta is firm, and the sauce has chunks of san marzano tomatoes.
- Effort - This easy pasta has just a couple simple steps. All you need to do is cook the sauce and pasta and enjoy!
- Time - It takes about 5 minutes to prep the ingredients then about 20-25 to cook the eggplant and sauce.
What is Pasta alla Norma?
Pasta alla Norma is a famous Sicilian pasta dish. It was named as a tribute to Vicenzo Bellini, a famous Sicilian opera composer who composed an opera called La Norma. According to some sources, famous Italian writer Nino Martoglio tasted the dish and proclaimed "This is a real 'Norma'!", meaning a masterpiece.
- Eggplant - Eggplant is soft and mildly sweet. It tastes delicious when cooked and smothered in tomato sauce. Use Italian or Japanese eggplant! Both are great options.
- San Marzano tomatoes - San Marzano tomatoes are the base for the sauce. San Marzanos are known for their sweetness, tanginess, and low acidity.
- Rigatoni pasta - Rigatoni is short and wide pasta with deep ridges and a broad surface that the pasta sauce clings to well.
- Garlic - Garlic is a classic aromatic with a pungent taste.
- Olive Oil - Extra virgin olive oil is a flavorful base for cooking the ingredients.
- Red Pepper Flakes - Chili flakes add a hot kick.
- Kosher Salt - Kosher salt adds flavor to the pasta water.
- Oregano - Oregano adds a bold and earthy flavor.
- Fresh Basil - Basil cut into ribbons, adds a fresh and herby garnish.
- Parmigiano-Reggiano or Ricotta cheese - Parmigiano-Reggiano is made of unpasteurized cow's milk and has a unique umami flavor. Ricotta salata is made from sheep's milk and has a slightly milder flavor. The cheese contributes to make the sauce extra creamy.
See recipe card for quantities.
- Penne pasta - Penne is a hollow, cylindrical pasta. There are two types of penne: smooth (lisce) and ridged (rigate). We recommend using rigate because its ridges tend to soak up more pasta sauce.
- Homemade Pasta - Use homemade pasta from scratch instead of store bought.
- Gluten Free - Use gluten free pasta to make this recipe gluten free.
- Whole Wheat Pasta - Replace traditional pasta with whole wheat penne pasta for a slightly healthier option.
- Gnocchi - This sauce is delicious with gnocchi. Give it a try for a different spin on this dish.
- Cherry Tomatoes - Blistered cherry or grape tomatoes will also taste delicious with the eggplant.
- Shallot or small onion - Use a shallot or small onion instead of garlic if you do not have garlic on hand.
- Garlic powder - If you do not have garlic on hand, try garlic powder in a pinch.
- Vegan - Omit the Parmigiano-Reggiano to make this dish vegan.
- Extra spicy - Add a little more chili flakes to make the sauce extra spicy.
- Lemon - Add a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten the pasta.
- Fresh parsley - Chopped parsley brightens the dish with a fresh herb flavor.
- Extra protein - Add Italian chicken sausage for extra protein. Italian chicken sausage is an earthy and lightly spicy sausage that is typically lower in fat and sodium while still providing great flavor.
- Roasted eggplant - Roast the eggplant in the oven instead of cooking it on the stove.
- Cut eggplant - Cut the eggplant in half, then into half circles. (Photo 1)
- Cook eggplant - In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced eggplant without stacking and turn over until golden and crisp on both sides. Cook in batches and place on a plate. (Photo 2)
- Cook sauce - There should be leftover oil in the pan. If not, add about a tablespoon. Add garlic, oregano, and chili flakes to the pan. Once the garlic softens and is fragrant, add the canned tomatoes to the pan and stir until incorporated. Turn down to low heat and allow the sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens, but does not dry out. Remove from heat.
- Boil pasta - Cook pasta while the sauce simmers. In a large pot, bring salted water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Add pasta to the water and cook until al dente per the packaging instructions. Reserve a cup of pasta water and drain the pasta. (Photo 5)
- Toss pasta, sauce, and eggplant - Transfer the pasta to the sauce and stir in a little pasta water until the pasta sauce reaches a silky consistency. Stir in the fresh basil and fold in the eggplant, reserving a few slices for garnish. (Photo 6 and 7)
- Serve with cheese - Serve immediately with fresh grated cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, pecorino, or ricotta) and garnish with eggplant slices. (Photo 8)
Pro tip: Use canned whole peeled tomatoes and crush them yourself using a fork or your hands. Whole tomatoes are the least processed, they breakdown nicely when cooked, and you can control the consistency of the sauce.
What to Serve with Pasta alla Norma
This rigatoni alla norma recipe is the perfect light dinner. Typically, we enjoy it with a veggie or appetizer like our 10 -Minute Sautéed Broccolini (Broccoletti), Burrata Caprese with Balsamic Glaze, or Furikake and Lemon Shishito Peppers for a complete and filling meal.
Yes! Eggplant has a good supply of fiber and potassium. It also has antioxidants like vitamins A and C. It also has just 25 calories and less than 1 gram of fat per serving. See more health information about Eggplant.
Given the rich tomato sauce, we recommend a red wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, or red wine blend.
The name eggplant dates back to the British occupation of India when they spotted a version of eggplant that was white and egg shaped. Due to their color and shape, the English called them eggplant.
Besides the name "eggplant" which is used in the US, Canada, and Australia, the most common other names for eggplant are Aubergine (United Kingdom, Ireland), Brinjal (India), and Melanzane (Italy).
- Make sure the sauce is well mixed - Before serving the pasta, make sure the sauce is well mixed in with the pasta noodles so the sauce coats each piece of pasta.
- Serve with bread - Enjoy this eggplant pasta recipe with a delicious baguette or roll to dip in the sauce. In Italian, this is called "fare la scarpetta," or "make the little shoe."
- Properly store - Refrigerate leftover rigatoni alla norma for up to 5 days in an air-tight container. To reheat, simply place the desired amount of leftover pasta and sauce in a braiser or dutch oven. Reheat the leftovers on low heat and occasionally stir until the sauce is hot.
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Eggplant Pasta (Pasta alla Norma)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 small eggplant cut into ½-inch half circles
- Kosher or sea salt plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon chili flakes plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano or sweet basil
- 1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes Preferably San Marzano, crushed by a fork or by hand
- 1 lb rigatoni (or any short cut pasta, e.g. penne or ziti)
- Small handful of fresh basil leaves chopped or hand torn
- Parmigiano-Reggiano or Ricotta for serving
- Cook eggplant - In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add sliced eggplant without stacking and turn over until golden and crisp on both sides. Cook in batches and place on a plate.2 tablespoon olive oil, 1 small eggplant
- Cook sauce - If the pan needs more oil, add about a tablespoon. Add garlic, oregano, chili flakes to the pan. Once the garlic softens and is fragrant, add the canned tomatoes to the pan and stir until incorporated. Turn down to low heat and allow the sauce to simmer for about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens, but does not dry out. Remove from heat.2 garlic cloves, ½ teaspoon chili flakes, 1 teaspoon dried oregano or sweet basil, 1 28 ounce can whole tomatoes
- Cook pasta - Cook the pasta while the sauce simmers. In a large pot, bring salted water to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Add pasta to the water and cook until al dente per the packaging instructions. Reserve a cup of pasta water and drain the pasta.Kosher or sea salt, 1 lb rigatoni
- Toss pasta, sauce, and eggplant - Transfer the pasta to the sauce and stir in a little pasta water, about a quarter cup at a time, until the pasta sauce reaches a silky consistency. You don’t have to use all of the pasta water. Toss the pasta until it is coated in the sauce and stir in the fresh basil. Fold in the eggplant, reserving a few slices for garnish.Small handful of fresh basil leaves
- Serve - Serve immediately with fresh grated cheese and garnish with eggplant slices.Parmigiano-Reggiano or Ricotta, 1 small eggplant
- Before serving the pasta, make sure the sauce is well mixed in with the pasta noodles so the sauce coats each piece of pasta.
- Use a short cut tube pasta. It has the most surface area and is a good fit for a "meatier" sauce like this.
- Use an American, Italian, or Japanese eggplant.
- Generously salt your pasta water with kosher salt when it starts to boil. This adds flavor to the pasta noodles.
- Use canned whole peeled tomatoes and crush them yourself using a fork or your hands. Whole tomatoes are the least processed, they breakdown nicely when cooked, and you can control the consistency of the sauce.